Although sea vegetables have not been historically common within American households, sea vegetables such as seaweed, sushi nori, and kelp have been a staple food in many cultures around the world. For example, in Japan, seaweed is not just something that tickles your toes at the beach – it’s also a complete protein food that is full of chlorophyll, minerals, and health benefits.
WHAT ARE SEA VEGETABLES?
Sea vegetables are also one of the most alkalizing foods on the planet. They are a great source of vitamins and trace minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
Aside from being chock-full of essential nutrients and minerals, sea vegetables are also full of antioxidant compounds and are able to remove heavy metals and toxic pollutants from the body. that protect against free radicals. The most common forms of antioxidants found in sea veggies include vitamins A, C, and E, though there are many others. Antioxidant-rich sea vegetables also help maintain cardiovascular health, provide anti-inflammatory benefits and balance blood-sugar levels.
Additionally, consuming sea vegetables is known to support the body’s detoxification process. Our bodies are constantly exposed to heavy metals, whether it be from certain products we use, air pollution we breathe in, or certain foods that we eat. Over time, heavy metals can accumulate and heighten levels of toxicity in the body. Thankfully, sea vegetables like spirulina and chlorella help encourage the process of flushing out toxins.
If you are still not totally sold on incorporating sea veggies into your diet, you can start with a good greens powder to add to smoothies or water, and a quality magnesium citrate supplement and go from there. But we think you’ll not only like, but actually end up craving, these plants of the ocean.
HOW DO I EAT SEA VEGETABLES?
Obviously, most of us immediately jump to sushi, and that is a great way to eat sea vegetables, including healthy sushi nori rolls and seaweed salad. However, sea vegetables are extremely versatile and can be easily incorporated into many dishes such as salads, stir-fries, soups and stews. Even yummy seaweed snacks are available now (just check those ingredient lists carefully).
WHY SHOULD I EAT SEA VEGETABLES?
Sea vegetables also contain a rich amount of vitamins and health benefits that help improve the health of skin, hair, and nails. In fact, sea vegetables have more minerals than most vegetables we find in the supermarket by a large margin. Sea vegetables can also help lower our risk of estrogen-related illnesses, and the iodine content in this resource is vital for healthy thyroid function. Sea vegetables also contain some omega-3 fatty acids, which can be a vegan alternative to a healthy fish oil supplement.
In terms of gut health, sea vegetables have been shown to support a healthy gut microbiome, due to their high fiber content. Similar to the fiber found in fruits and vegetables, this fiber aids in digestion and helps to push things through the digestive tract. Additionally, sea vegetables contain prebiotics that encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
WHAT TYPES OF SEA VEGETABLES ARE THERE?
Though dried seaweed might be the only kind of sea vegetable you’re familiar with, there are so many more types of sea vegetable out there, each with their own unique qualities and health benefits. These include:
Agar is generally a good option as a vegan substitute for gelatin, as it can be used as a thickening agent. It’s high in protein and comes from red seaweed. Overall agar is a solid option for those following a plant based diet or who are sensitive to sugar.
Arame is a brown seaweed known to be a very mild sea vegetable, making it a great one to try for the first time. It also tends to double in size when soaked. When dried, arame has a crispy texture filled with extra protein and minerals.
Dulse is known for its ability to improve thyroid function and vision. Packed with calcium, iron, and protein, dulse is also easy to add to foods and dressings, as it is available in the form of flakes (known as dulse flakes).
Hijiki is a very versatile seaweed, and easy to prepare. Hijiki seaweed can help with our bone health due to the high amount of calcium.
Kelp is a great source of vitamin B and iodine content. This popular brown algae provides energy and also protects our nervous system. You can also eat kelp in the form of raw kelp noodles, which is a great gluten-free option when looking for a pasta or noodle substitute.
Kombu is rich in iron, which helps protect us from anemia. Kombu is called the “king of seaweed” as it can be used to make dashi, or Japanese broth. Kombu is also commonly found in miso soups and stews.
Nori is one of the most popular sea veggies, as this is the one that wraps sushi rolls. You don’t need to stick to just sushi, you can wrap many things (including salad) in nori sheets.
Wakame is a familiar seaweed, as it is often used in miso soups. It also is a good source of vitamin K and folate.
Chlorella is a single-celled green freshwater algae. Because chlorella has a hard cell wall that humans can’t digest, it actually has to be taken in supplement form, usually in capsule or powder form. It can easily be added to smoothies, shakes, or other drinks for an added nutrient boost.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that has existed for centuries. Most readily available in powder or capsule form, it is a rich source of protein, beta-carotene, and essential fatty acids.
WHERE DO I BUY SEA VEGETABLES?
News of sea vegetables’ health benefits travels fast. More stores in the United States are beginning to sell sea vegetables. If you’re interested in incorporating sea veggies into your diet, we recommend visiting health food stores, local Asian food markets, or even the international food aisle at your local grocery store for a good selection of sea plants. (Pro Tip: sea vegetables are usually sold in their dried form. Not to worry- these veggies are still edible when dried, but they can also be re-hydrated with water when ready to eat.)
As with everything, quality is important. Many brands that sell seaweed and sea veggie products now offer information on their websites concerning sourcing and radiation prevention. It’s important to be informed and do a little homework, but very worthwhile.
HOW TO MAKE A MISO BROTH WITH SEA VEGETABLES
Here is an easy recipe for a miso broth, which you can also consume on the 21-Day Clean Program, as fermented soy products in small amounts are fine. You can also choose chickpea miso as an alternative.
1 cup boiling water
2 Tablespoons of miso
1 TBS chopped nori, wakame or kombu
2 TBS minced green onions
1 TBS grated ginger
1 TBS garlic
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